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Man on a mission

Armand Young passes through Sidney on long walk to honor fallen responders

 

Caitlin Sievers

50-year-old Armand Young stayed in Sidney last Thursday during his walk across the United States in honor of 9/11 victims and United States soldiers. He collects patches from all the police and fire stations along the way to place on flags. He plans to make a quilt from these flags. To his left is the bamboo pole covered in flags that he's carried throughout his journey.

Armand Young began walking across the United States on April 16, 2007 in honor of American soldiers and victims of 9/11.

He brought along a bamboo pole covered in American flags. He asks those he encounters to sign a flag with the promise to perform a kind act in honor of a 9/11 victim or fallen soldier.

"My big picture is that I'm trying to change the world with kindness," Young said. "I'm trying to turn all the negative in our world into positive."

For every life lost, Young hopes to gain one signature and inspire a corresponding act of kindness. Young's pole now weighs 62 pounds and is decorated with 561 miniature American flags. He's collected more then 500,000 signatures.

The 50-year-old who passed through Sidney last week began his walk on the Santa Monica pier in California with plans to travel New York and back again on foot. The trip included many stops due to the deaths of his mother and sister.

"To me, that really set me back because my mom and my sister was the first two people to sign this before I started my walk," Young said.

Young finally made it to ground zero on September 3, 2011. While in New York he met many 9/11 first responders and visited all the memorials and fire houses in the area. He stayed in New York for the 10 year memorial of the event where he was approached by a 10-year-old boy who thanked Young for honoring his mother. The boy told Young that he didn't remember his mother because she died in the attacks.

"Stuff like that just killed me, you know," Young said.

Inspiring others to perform acts of kindness is Young's way of giving back and to atone for mistakes he made when he was younger.

"I was a thief and I was a druggie, big time," Young said.

His life changed when Young devoted himself to God. After that, he often traveled to Mexico to build houses for poor families, but his friends asked why he didn't help those in his own country. Young believes that God placed the idea for this walk in his heart.

He got out of bed one day in California where he worked as a massage therapist, cut down a bamboo pole growing in his yard and began his walk.

"The rest was history," Young said. "I literally got rid of everything I owned in California, my house, my job everything."

Young now lives in West Virginia with his wife, with whom he reconnected during the first leg of his walk. Young's wife, who he'd previously known in San Diego, saw him on Good Morning America and called him while he was traveling through Indiana. She then invited him to stay in with her in West Virginia when Young was grieving his mother's death. They later married.

During the course of his walk, Young also hopes to find employment for people in need, he said. He simply asks local business owners if they would like to honor a fallen fire fighter by giving someone a job. He's already found homes and jobs for many families.

"Our soldiers right now are dying for us to make our world a better place, a safe place," Young said. "Well, I'm trying to give them a little help."

Young has met many generous people along the way.

"I've met people who would give their shirt off their back to help someone," Young said.

Hotel owners along Young's route often grant him free board in support of his mission. The owner at Sidney Motor Lodge did just that.

"That helps a lot," Young said.

Young's support for victims of 9/11 and American soldiers as well as his deep faith both resonated with Jack Harris, owner of Sidney Motor Lodge. This is why he allowed Young to stay free of charge, Harris said.

The walk does take a toll on Young's body, he acknowledged. He normally walks between 10 to 20 miles per day, but traveled 41 miles on Thursday on his way into Lodgepole.

"I really want this walk to end so I can go home to my wife," Young said. "But it was something that I promised my mom I was going to complete no matter what."

He expects to make it to Santa Monica within the next four to five months.

Although many museums and organizations have asked to buy his pole, Young wants the signatures to continue.

"I'd like to see a billion signatures on this one day," he said.

Young plans to auction the flag with the stipulation that the signatures never cease. He'll use the money to pay his mortgage and open a franchise of missions in underprivileged areas across the country.

"This is my way of giving back for my wrong and to show the world also no matter who you are or what you've done, you can change the world, it's not too late," Young said.

 

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